Councils keen to take up Govt housing fund


One of the five Councils handpicked to access the Government's $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund is saying thanks, but no thanks.

But the other four will be queuing up for the cash.

While Christchurch is doing okay on its own, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Queenstown are all keen to tap into the fund to help provide services for future subdivisions and special housing areas.

Within five years there'll be 1200 new homes on Auckland's northern fringe, known as the Huapai Triangle.

Developer Cabra is welcoming the Government's Infrastructure Fund - what's needed there is a major overhaul of the highway beyond the subdivision's boundary.

"It's a great start we need to start somewhere, say in an area like Huapai, where traffic is the main issue," says Cabra property developer Duncan Unsworth.

"If we use a number like $50 million went to building new roads and upgrading intersections within this area, it could produce 5000-10,000 more sites."

The Government is trumpeting the $1 billion fund, and while Christchurch says its infrastructure is on track post-earthquakes, Auckland has more than 100 special housing areas, many in need of infrastructure.

"I would say we'll be looking to get two or three in there for a start with some urgency," says Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

Hamilton says it needs most help with water services.

"We've got five subdivisions opening and the city is keen to get a southern subdivision too," Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker says.

While $1 billion sounds like a lot of money, with projections Auckland alone will need to spend $20 billion on infrastructure in the next 10 years.

Critics say this is just a drop in the bucket.

"This is a very very small down-payment," says Labour Housing Spokesman Phil Twyford.

"The Government doesn't appear to have any answers on how they're going to pay the rest of it."

"All this is a panic attack by the Government," says Demographia author Hugh Pavletich.

"All the Government is doing here is coming up with a band-aid solution to deal with the problem, this is a non-solution."

And councils say the Government's offer is short on detail.

Mr Brown wants clarification whether Councils can access the cash to upgrade services like wastewater in and around already-built urban developments known as 'brownfields', which he says are just as much in need.

"Our apartment blocks are totally running off the plans getting pre-sold before build so our plan for Auckland is a bit up and a bit out."

Prime Minister John Key says the test will be if it brings in more houses.

So the race between councils for cash is all on, and they have just 10years to pay it back.

Ultimately, it'll be ratepayers and taxpayers footing the bill.